After qualifying a lofty fourth for Sunday's 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals, third-year Top Fuel pro Richie Crampton was hoping for a busy day at the drag races. Instead, his Lucas Oil dragster got out of shape early in his run against Scott Palmer, and the deficit was enough to cancel the rest of his game day plans.

“We’re frustrated because we know we’re better than this,” Crampton said. “It just goes to show how humbling this sport can be. Last year we’d already won a race by now and we were cruising. This year we have had nothing but struggles to this point.

“The car shows us glimpses of being really good but then it stops responding. We definitely thought we had it figured out after Charlotte, and coming here and battling the rain and humidity in qualifying, we still felt we had a combination that could win rounds. Then we go out there and can’t get down the track.”

Crampton did his job in the cockpit, leaving ahead of part-timer Palmer, but the red, white, and blue Lucas rail was soon lost in a cloud of tire smoke, allowing Palmer to pull away. The final numbers had Palmer winning with a lackluster 3.992 at 309.42 mph to Crampton’s eventually resigned 5.540 at 133.43 mph.

“The car tried to go too fast too early in the run,” Crampton said. “I felt it, so I slapped the pedal, but the timers were already going off and it’s almost impossible to reel it in when you lose traction that early. I was watching Scott because if anything went wrong with his run I was going to try and chase him down, but once he got to about half-track I knew there was no hope, so I shut it off.

“All you can do in downtimes like this is stay after it. I know the guys are killing themselves to fix whatever’s wrong, and we’ve brought in some of the crewmen from Morgan (Lucas, team owner’s) team to see if a fresh set of eyes might help. We’re doing all we can.” 

The NHRA Mello Yello tour takes a weekend off before returning to action May 13-15 with the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Image credit: Geiger Media Global